It was a chance for Durant to do for those children what his enormous basketball talent has done for him: show them that there is a world beyond the narrow confines of where they live, one that holds endless possibilities for how they choose to live their lives.
“We never had those opportunities, coming from Seat Pleasant,” Durant said Tuesday night. “Getting to hang around with the best team in the NBA, the world champions, we never got that opportunity at that age. To be able to provide them that type of experience, it’s going to do a lot for those kids.
“They’re going to remember this for the rest of their lives.”
For Durant — who also spent a chunk of his day Tuesday looking at plans for the Durant Center, which will also be in Seat Pleasant and will be the home of a local chapter of College Track, a project he recently committed $10 million toward — the opportunity to give back to the community that produced him by giving the kids from his old recreation center a chance to spend a day with the defending NBA champions was a thrill.
But he also went out of his way not to take credit for the idea. Instead, he thanked the organization — specifically fellow players Stephen Curry and Draymond Green and General Manager Bob Myers, among others — for coming to him and saying that this was how they wanted to spend their day celebrating last season’s triumph.
“Well, to be honest, I didn’t make the decision,” he said. “I was down with whatever they wanted to do, and they told me they wanted to take the kids from my neighborhood to come join us and I was just grateful and appreciative.
“They didn’t have to do that. That means a lot to me, to the community I come from, to the people I grew up around. For them to think about me like that shows the type of organization and people we have here.”
In past years, Tuesday would have been a day full of pomp and circumstance, with a visit to the White House to celebrate this team winning a second championship in three years last season — and, for Durant, the first title of his Hall of Fame career.
But times have changed. President Trump’s arrival in the White House has led to a series of skirmishes with professional athletes over the past year. Those battles have included the Warriors themselves, as Trump “disinvited” them from the traditional White House visit after Curry said on the opening day of training camp that he would vote against visiting the White House.
Trump’s action the next morning — done via Twitter — took that decision out of their hands. But it also provided the team with an opportunity to celebrate its trip to Washington in a unique way, even if it did keep Durant from returning to his home town to have the traditional victory lap teams have grown accustomed to having.
“Not at all,” Durant said, when asked if it felt weird not going to the White House. “Because my view of the championship was exactly what we did. Us as a team, on the court. That’s how I viewed the championship. Everything outside of that is extra. I’m doing whatever my brothers want to do. I’m doing whatever my team wants to do. I’m doing whatever the organization wants to do. We’re celebrating it how we want to celebrate it, and in a unique way.
“To be honest, we didn’t even think about the championship. If we’d gone to the White House, we’d have had the trophy there, we’d have reminisced about what we did in the past. But this was about learning, and inspiring youth, and it was amazing.”
It also was inspiring to Durant, who said he is already looking forward to going back to the 400,000-square-foot building — which opened in September 2016 — on his own time to soak in more of the history on display inside of it.
“[There are] just so many stories that you kind of bypass,” he said. “You learn about slavery, and those who fought for you to be free. But then you really get into how many people died on the way to North America from Africa, how they viewed slaves, and how they sold little kids off and took them from their families. We learned more about Emmett Till and what he and his family went through.
“It was just impactful. There was so much that you hear and I learned in elementary school, and through school, but just some of the photos … my mom, my parents, they wouldn’t let me see as a kid. Some of the stuff you probably had to wait until you were older to see. It was good to get that history.”
From the moment Trump disinvited the Warriors from the White House, this week’s visit to the nation’s capital was always going to be a politically charged event. But it isn’t the only first Durant has been embroiled this month. After Durant and LeBron James filmed a wide-ranging conversation about the state of race in politics in the country for “Uninterrupted,” Fox News host Laura Ingraham fired back in a monologue that went viral heading into All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles.
But rather than causing Durant to consider not speaking out for the fear of stoking controversy, moments like that have only given him reason to feel emboldened about showing people what he believes in and why it is important.
“That’s what we’re always about,” Durant said. “No matter what comments are made about us, no matter how people view us … not just me, but my whole team and all of my brothers in the NBA, who are doing great things in their communities, no matter where they come from. Omri Casspi on our team, he does so much in his home country [of Israel]. Zaza Pachulia, he does so much in his home country [of Georgia], as well.
“It’s not just me or Draymond or Steph. It’s all of my brothers in the NBA who have done so much, and we’re not going to let some ignorant comment about who we are, or our character, take away from what we do.
“I’m proud of everybody in the NBA for what they’ve done in their communities. We’re just going to try to continue to push the culture forward, continue to push this game forward and humanity, as well. It’s amazing what we can do with our platform.”
Durant’s platform, like so many of today’s stars, has grown far beyond anything he could’ve imagined in his days getting up shots at the Seat Pleasant Activity Center. While he has realized his dream of making it to the NBA, he has also risen to the top of the sport, with it has come the ability to influence people in every place that he’s been.
He’s donated money to the University of Texas. He’s given extensively to Positive Tomorrows, a school for homeless children in Oklahoma City. He’s done work in Seattle, where he played the first season of his career after before the Supersonics became the Thunder.
And on Tuesday, he gave back to his home town, and his old neighborhood, in ways he — and they — will never forget.
“You don’t really get it when you’re a kid, because obviously you’re playing a game, and you want to focus on the game and get to the highest point in the game,” Durant said. “But once you get here, you realize who you are, you realize how far you’ve come and where you’ve come from to make it.
“You come to a point in your life when you stop thinking always about what you want to do in your life, and you start thinking about others even more. Since I’ve been in the league I’ve always had dreams of helping the people in my neighborhood, and that’s turned into helping out everyone I can come across in every city I’ve played for.
“Life is about experiencing things, and giving them back to other people. I want to try to do that as much as I can.”
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